The Man Without Talent by Yoshiharu Tsuge, translated by Ryan Holmberg / ISBN 9781681374437 / 240-page paperback from New York Review Comics
A Japanese manga legend's autobiographical graphic novel about a struggling artist and the first full-length work by the great Yoshiharu Tsuge available in the English language.
"My most pleasurable reading experience of 2020 was Ryan Holmberg's translation of Yoshiharu Tsuge’s The Man Without Talent (NYRC). Holmberg's translated dialogue is full of vernacular poetry, which I imagine/hope is quite close to the experience of reading the Japanese version. It certainly fits Tsuge’s gorgeous cartooning, which is often unfussy and employed to effectively tell the story, but sometimes surprises with its soft and loving approximation of the Japanese countryside and shacks full of possessions . . . I haven't been able to recommend this book enough.” —Nicholas Burman, The Comic Journal
Yoshiharu Tsuge is one of comics' most celebrated and influential artists, but his work has been almost entirely unavailable to English-speaking audiences. The Man Without Talent, his first book ever to be translated into English, is an unforgiving self-portrait of frustration. Swearing off cartooning as a profession, Tsuge takes on a series of unconventional jobs -- used camera salesman, ferryman, and stone collector -- hoping to find success among the hucksters, speculators, and deadbeats he does business with.
Instead, he fails again and again, unable to provide for his family, earning only their contempt and his own. The result is a dryly funny look at the pitfalls of the creative life, and an off-kilter portrait of modern Japan. Accompanied by an essay from translator Ryan Holmberg that discusses Tsuge's importance in comics and Japanese literature, The Man Without Talent is one of the great works of comics literature.
Yoshiharu Tsuge was born in Tokyo in 1937. Influenced by the realistic and gritty rental manga of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, he began making his own comics. He was also recruited to assist Shigeru Mizuki during his explosion of popularity in the 1960s. In 1968, working for Garo magazine, Tsuge published the ground-breaking story “Neji-shiki”, which established him as an influential manga-ka and a cultural touchstone in the changing Japanese art world. He is considered the originator and greatest practitioner of the “I-novel” method of comics-making. In 2005, Tsuge was nominated for the Best Album Award at the Angouleme Comics Festival and in 2017 he won the Japan Cartoonists Association Grand Award.